Home > Knowledge Center> John Shook's eLetters> Lean practice applies to all work, everyone, every day, all day.

Lean practice applies to all work, everyone, every day, all day.

Permalink   |   4 Comments   |   Post a Comment   |  

As often happens, I was introduced at a company event recently as an "expert." I've never been fond of the term.  Lean thinkers prefer to focus on gathering experience, learning from it, and applying it to the problem at hand. The notion of experts, often authorized through a certification process, too often devolves into an approach to improvement in which teams of experts swoop in to "do improvement to" the people who are trying to do the work, the frontline value-creating work of the business.

Though expertise gained through experience and events is a part of lean approaches to improvement and learning, lean practice is neither an expert nor an event model. Lean isn't lean if it doesn't involve everyone, every day, all day.

So I find it useful to ask myself, has everyone in my group practiced lean today? Have I?

John Shook
Chairman and CEO
Lean Enterprise Institute, Inc.

4 Comments | Post a Comment
Robert Harrison March 29, 2012

I was certified APICS back in the late 80s and ven then the Toyota model was the inspiration. All my suggestions in American comapnies with huge item numbers and home grown software and incredibly wastful production systems resulted in not one of thewm changing. What changed was my employment. So now I live in th epacific Northwest, and Boeing likes Lean, so I decided to see what it was.

Imagine my surpise! Basically, updated version of what I learned decades ago! So now it's got me thinking in terms of the fire dsitrict I volunteer for, and the nonprofit I help run, and even my new writing career, my living at home.

Wwhich of course lends itself to my writing topics...


Thank you for the post!

Antal Varga March 29, 2012
Hello John, I found your brief article pretty useful. For me it has a kind of a zen thought. The way is more important than the destination. Cool ! And best wishes from Curitiba-Brazil.
Stewart March 29, 2012
I am not a regular when it comes to posting comments, howeve your recent note struck a chord with me (no pun untended). A change of work status to "gardening leave" created an opportunity to subtly introduce lean practices in my new "Mr. mom" role. The opportunity to improve the many "home" processes has been quite rewarding, although my wife and kids have questioned my sanity on occasion. That said we now have an improved lunch making process, washing, shopping and school drop-off. Others are now on the radar. Done with a touch of humour it has been one of the most interesting "change programs" I have been involved in to-date...... 
Joachim Knuf June 13, 2012

John, "expert" comes to us from Latin through Old French. It is the past participle of experiri, "to try, to test", so that an expert is someone who has been tested, or someone who has tried things out. I'd say that describes you pretty well!

Cheeers, Joachim

Other John Shook Related Content



  • Learning From The Sensei Way at Work
    Seek perfection by cultivating a daily discipline of mindfulness, whether in lean practice or Buddhist training, writes John Shook in his foreword to a new book by Dan Prock.
  • What are the Three A's of the A3?
    John Shook explains the three A's of the A3 in this video clip from the presentation that he and Lisa Yerian, chief improvement officer at Cleveland Clinic, delivered at LEI's Virtual Learning Experience.
  • Are You Ready for the Next Crisis?
    We think the presence of a robust, socio-technically balanced lean management and operating system—based on the Lean Transformation Framework—was invaluable in helping Cleveland Clinic handle the challenges arising from the pandemic, write John Shook and Lisa Yerian.